Spanish PM urges return of ‘free, democratic’ Catalonia
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Nov. 11 he wanted to return to a “democratic and free” Catalonia as he aimed to rally support for a unified Spain on his first visit to the turbulent region since it declared independence.
A day after hundreds of thousands of people marched in Barcelona to demand the release of separatist officials detained over their independence drive, Rajoy also urged businesses not to flee the wealthy northern region.
“We have to recover the sensible, practical, enterprising and dynamic Catalonia... that has contributed so much to the progress of Spain and Europe,” Rajoy told members of his Popular Party in Barcelona.
“We want to regain a Catalonia for everyone, democratic and free,” he added.
The Catalonia crisis has caused concern in the European Union as the bloc deals with Brexit and uncertainty over the fate of the region’s 7.5 million people. More than 2,400 businesses have moved their legal headquarters elsewhere.
Rajoy yesterday urged those businesses “not to go.”
The region -- which accounts for a fifth of Spanish GDP -- remains deeply divided on independence and Barcelona mayor on Nov. 11 slammed separatist lawmakers for dragging Catalonia into chaos.
Rajoy has used his powers as head of Spain’s central government to dismiss Catalan lawmakers, suspend
the region’s autonomy and call for fresh regional elections on Dec. 21.
The prime minister, who attended a presentation by a party candidate at hotel in Barcelona, did not appear in public.
Eight ministers under Catalan ex-leader Carles Puigdemont have been detained on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. Two heads of pro-independence lobby groups are also behind bars.
Six former parliamentarians were granted bail last week by Spain’s Supreme Court on similar charges.
Local police said 750,000 people turned out in Barcelona on Nov. 11 to demand the release of detained officials.